Local News Articles

Medical Malpractice Reform Bill Heads to Governor after Senate Approval

April 26, 2008

The State Senate has approved and sent to the governor major tort reform legislation aimed at weeding out meritless medical malpractice lawsuits. Medical malpractice costs have been a factor in pushing up the cost of health care nationwide. The Department of Commerce and Insurance Annual Reports on Medical Malpractice have shown that more than 80% of the lawsuits filed in Tennessee lack sufficient merit to proceed.

“This is a significant reform bill,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet). “I am hopeful that it will help curtail the spiraling cost of health care. It will also help restore confidence in providers that they can invest in their patients' care rather than lawsuits."

Last year the legislation was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee and passed the Senate, but it hit roadblocks in the House of Representatives regarding which medical experts can testify in malpractice trials, called the “locality rule.” The bill was deferred until this year after an agreement could not be reached before the close of the 2007 legislative session. That provision has now been removed from the bill.

Key provisions in the bill include:

Notice would be provided at least two months before a lawsuit is filed to help resolve the case before it goes to court.

It sets up a process requiring pre-filing notification to each medical provider who may be named in a medical malpractice action at least 60 days prior to filing a complaint.

It contains a notification requirement to require attorneys to have an independent medical expert evaluate the merits of a case before filing suit.

The bill establishes that all parties are entitled to the plaintiff’s medical records within 30 days of a request for the records.

It requires that within 90 days after a complaint is filed the plaintiff’s attorneys would have to attest that they have consulted with a medical expert who is competent to testify in a Tennessee court and has reviewed the medical records or any other pertinent information.

Medical experts must declare that there is a good faith basis to maintain the malpractice action, and the defendant is responsible for following a similar procedure when alleging that a non-party is responsible.

Sponsors of the bill have been working on the legislation since 2001. The medical malpractice liability act was last amended in 1975.

Legislation that maintains Tennessee’s dedicated road fund advanced last week with approval from the Senate Finance Committee. The bill would prohibit the diversion of gas tax money through the state’s budget, or appropriations bill, without authorization from separate legislation to assure full debate of the issue. Currently, the dedicated road fund can be diverted through a line in the appropriations bill, which is a much easier route to raid the funds.

“This bill would put our state back in the position we were before 2004 to keep the state from easily diverting gas tax money for other state government purposes,” said Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet). “The current law does not contain the appropriate checks and balances to ensure that any diversion of the funds is fully debated in our Transportation Committee, as it would in the normal legislative process.”

The Department of Transportation only spends the funds that are available through its dedicated revenues, gas taxes and highway user fees, and federal funding. Called “dedicated funding” since users pay for the roads through gas taxes and fees, a portion of the gasoline tax also goes to cities and counties in Tennessee to fund local roads. This dedicated revenue system was put into place when the gas tax was raised to fund the road program. Over the last five or six years, $280 million in road funds has been funneled from the gas tax to meet other state government expenditures.

“I certainly understand why the public is skeptical,” Beavers continued. “The people of Tennessee believe that this is a dedicated fund and they need to know that when they fill up heir gas tanks that 21.4 cents will be used for the purpose for which it was originally intended.”

Legislation had been approved to divert funds from many dedicated and reserve accounts to meet other expenses during the financial pinch in 2001. However, all other reserve or dedicated funds which were diverted to meet other expenses during the past financial crisis had been restored to the normal legislative process, except for the road fund.

“Our federal highway transportation fund is declining and the legislature must plan for future needs based on state revenues,” she added. “There is much concern regarding the future of the gas tax due to the rising cost of gasoline, could erode Tennessee’s ability to provide the repairs and infrastructure needed for the state’s road system.”

“It is very important that we keep our dedicated road fund intact in order to maintain our road system at a time when road money is declining,” she continued. “This is now catching up with us as our communities are growing and we don’t have the road money to keep up with transportation demands.”

The Senate Finance Committee has voted to begin the process for divesting Tennessee’s pension fund from having any holding with companies that have substantial operations in nations determined by the U.S. State Department to be state-sponsors of terrorism. The bill requires the state’s Treasurer to compile a list of the investments with ties to terrorist countries. Sponsors say it is a step towards implementing a policy to instruct the executive director to divest of those holdings.

Growing concern over genocide in Sudan and countries that sponsor terrorism has prompted state legislatures across the nation to consider actions to limit or eliminate state investments in firms doing business with such countries. Twenty-four states have already adopted policies of divestment from Sudan. Tennessee has a $32 billion pension fund which serves state employees, public school teachers, and many local government employees.

Issues in Brief

Drunk Driver Registry – Members of the Finance Committee approved a bill to create a registry of persons who have two or more DUI convictions with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, similar to that of the Sex Offender Registry. The offender would be placed on the Registry if their license has been revoked or suspended due to a drunk driving offense. Their name would be removed if their license is reinstated, within 45 days. The Registry would serve as a strong deterrent to driving under the influence and would make drunk drivers think about the consequences of their actions. In 2006, there were 1,287 fatalities on Tennessee roads with 509 due to alcohol-related crashes.

Handguns – The full Senate has approved a bill that changes present law by making it a Class E felony for a person who has been convicted of any felony to possess a handgun. The bill broadens the Class E felony offense of unlawful possession of a handgun to include a person with any prior felony conviction.

Notary public – The State Senate gave approval to legislation this week to require any person who is a notary public to be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

Consumers – The Senate has passed legislation to amend the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act to protect citizens from businesses who might misrepresent the geographic location of a business. The bill applies to businesses that misrepresent their location in the local telephone directory or on the Internet.

Multi-Modal Transportation – The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation this week to provide for greater coordination of transportation services through the Department of Transportation’s multi-modal transportation system. The measure aims to provide efficiency between the various departments utilizing transportation services to stop duplication of efforts.

Sex offenders – The full Senate has voted to approve legislation that would provide that if a sex offender changes names or provides a different name than is listed on their original registration form, they must report all names to the registry. The bill would make it clear that sex offenders cannot change their name to skirt the law regarding sex offender registry requirements.

Sanctuary Cities -- The Senate State and Local Government Committee has approved legislation to cut off economic and community grant money to any Tennessee city that might declare itself a "sanctuary city" for illegal aliens. A sanctuary city is a term given to a city in the United States that follows certain practices that protect illegal aliens. Thirty-eight cities in the U.S. have been recognized as sanctuary cities. However, many sources have identified over 200 city or county governments nationwide as having practiced such policies. The bill is a preemptive strike to guard against adoption of any policy by cities in the state to provide a sanctuary for illegal aliens in Tennessee.

DUI fines -- Legislation that would increase DUI fines by $250 has been approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week. Part of the money would be kept in the local communities where the crime occurred for housing offenders, while the other half would be used for alcohol or drug addiction treatment. The bill is expected to provide $1.5 million to the state and $1.5 million to local governments.

New Requirements Ensure Student Athletes at the Top of their Game

April 26, 2008

With a commitment to the health and well-being of every student in the state, the Tennessee Department of Education announced today the establishment of new rules that will ensure each student athlete is at the top of their game both physically and as a well-rounded student.

A new State Board of Education rule will require athletes entering the seventh and ninth grade for the 2008-09 school year to have a complete health maintenance exam also known as a “well-child check” or Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) exam prior to sports participation.

“Improving and ensuring the health of every student, so they can focus on their most important job of learning, is one of our single biggest priorities,” said Tim Webb, Acting Education Commissioner.

The health maintenance exam includes a thorough history, a physical exam, screening for hearing and vision, laboratory tests, immunizations and age-appropriate education. It also covers all the items needed so athletes can be cleared for participation in sports.

These exams are different from typical sports physicals, which do not address the behavioral, emotional and psychosocial topics covered during a comprehensive health maintenance exam. When the complete health exam is substituted for a sports physical, there is increased opportunity to address issues vital to a student’s health.

“Given the number of chronic health problems rooted in childhood, it is important to tackle these problems early and this exam provides a venue to address these areas,” said Dr. Veronica Gunn, Chief Medical Officer of the Tennessee Department of Health.

Students may obtain the comprehensive exam from their primary care provider, or if a child is uninsured, parents can inquire about eligibility for other health care programs like TennCare at www.state.tn.us/tenncare or Cover Kids at www.covertn.gov/web/cover_kids.html. Detailed information on this physical can be found at the Department of Health’s Web site: http://health.state.tn.us/sportsphysical.

Three Involved in Thursday Night Wreck

April 26, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Three people were involved in a one car crash around 8:00 p.m. Thursday night on Highway 56 south near the DeKalb/Warren County line.

Trooper Brian Raymond of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 30 year old Lisa Porterfield of Dowelltown was driving south in a 1996 Honda Accord when she ran off the southbound lane and hit a ditch.

Porterfield and a passenger, 24 year old Roxanna Landis of Smithville were airlifted by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. Another passenger, 48 year old Timothy Stafford of Smithville was not injured.

Trooper Raymond says neither of the three was restrained in the vehicle.

Others on the scene included DeKalb EMS, the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, and First Responders.

DeKalb County Jobless Rate at 5.7% in March

April 25, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for March was 5.7%, up from the rate of 5.4% in February and 4.4% in March 2007.

The local Labor Force for March was 10,330. A total of 9,750 were employed and 590 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March at 5.6 percent, is 0.3 percent higher than the February rate of 5.3 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of March was 5.1 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for March show that 50 counties increased. The rate decreased in 27 counties and remained the same in 18 counties. County unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted and therefore reflect seasonal expansions and layoffs that occur during the year. The state and U.S. unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted to eliminate normal seasonal fluctuations and to indicate a more accurate measurement of actual economic change.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 3.9 percent, the same as the February rate. Perry County had the state's highest at 12.1 percent, up from 11.6 in February, followed by Clay County at 11.1 percent, up from 10.3 percent in February.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 4.3 percent, the same as the February rate. Davidson County was 4.7 percent, up from 4.5 in February. Hamilton County was at 4.7 percent up 0.1 percent from February, and Shelby County was 6.2 percent, up from the February rate of 5.9.

Middle Tennessee Natural Gas and Tennessee One-Call Remind Homeowners to Call 811 Before They Dig

April 25, 2008

As warmer weather approaches and a new season begins, homeowners start to get the home improvement itch, with outdoor projects at the top of their to-do lists. Weekend warriors have been making plans all winter to build a new deck, plant shrubs and even add that white picket fence or install a new mailbox. Not only do homeowners need the proper tools and materials to successfully complete a project; they also need Tennessee One-Call to ensure that surrounding underground utility lines are safe from excavation.

811, a federally mandated and easy-to-remember national “Call Before You Dig” number, was created to help do-it-yourselfers ensure that utility lines are marked before digging, eliminating unintentional encounters with underground utility lines while they work on projects that require breaking ground.

Here’s how it works. To ensure that all underground utility lines in the work area are marked, call Tennessee One-Call by dialing 811 at least 3 business days before digging. Tennessee One-Call will arrange for member utility operators to have the underground lines at the project site investigated and marked, free of charge, so that homeowners can carefully excavate around them and protect the lines during construction. This simple step can save money, prevent personal and property damage and protect homeowners from legal ramifications. It’s that simple.

It is pertinent that homeowners notify Tennessee One-Call before any digging begins, no matter how large or small the project. Those digging often incorrectly assume that projects such as planting a tree, building a deck and installing a new mailbox or fence don’t break ground deep enough to require a visit from utility line locators. Tennessee One-Call Center is a homeowner’s ultimate partner – a partner that must be included in all outdoor home projects that involve digging.

Natural gas delivered by pipelines is the safest form of energy in the U.S. Day in and day out, all across this country, pipelines safely deliver the efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly natural gas that brings comfort to our businesses and homes. By utilizing 811 and proper digging techniques you will keep the gas in the pipeline and avoid the hazards of flammable and pressurized materials. Middle Tennessee Natural Gas (MTNG) and Tennessee One Call employees work diligently to keep you safe. MTNG pipelines are designed, tested, operated, and maintained to standards that meet or exceed regulatory requirements. Yellow proximity markers are installed to warn of pipelines in the area and provide Tennessee One Call’s phone number.

Though natural gas incidents are uncommon, especially when utilizing 811, you should know their telltale signs:

Look – Blowing dirt, bubbling water, dry spots in moist areas, or dead vegetation may indicate a gas leak.

Listen – A hissing sound near a natural gas pipeline or appliance may indicate a leak.

Smell –Natural gas has a unique odor added to it so you can be aware of a leak through your sense of smell.

If you suspect a gas leak, take action:

Leave immediately – Do not try to find or stop the leak. Get to a safe area.

Do not smoke, use phones, turn appliances or lights on or off, or operate any equipment that could spark.

Call – Once you are out of the area where a gas leak is suspected

For any additional information regarding Tennessee One-Call Center services, please feel free to call 811 or visit www.tnonecall.com. Further information on natural gas can be obtained at www.mntg.com.

Remember it’s free, it’s easy and safe digging is a shared responsibility – know what’s below, call before you dig.

District Attorney General Bill Gibson Announces Plans to Resign

April 24, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Long time District Attorney General Bill Gibson has announced his intention to resign effective, July 10th.

In a letter to Governor Phil Bredesen, dated today (Thursday) Gibson wrote "I am writing to submit to you my resignation from the office of District Attorney General for the 13th Judicial District. My resignation will become effective on Thursday, July 10th, 2008 and I will vacate the office on that date. It is my intention that this letter be irrevocable and offered in anticipation of giving you ample time to select a proper replacement for appointment to this office."

"It has been my great pleasure to serve the people of Tennessee and the Thirteenth Judicial District in this capacity for the past 18 years. Blessed with an exceptional staff great accomplishments have been made in our area. I have told many groups that the District Attorney has the very best job description in the world; to do justice on behalf of the people; to do the right thing under a wide variety of circumstances. My decision today follows through on that notion of doing what I believe is the right thing under difficult and challenging circumstances."

Gibson has been unable to serve as D.A. since his law license was suspended in 2006 over an ethics scandal.

That scandal involved letters he wrote to a convicted murderer and efforts he made to help a woman clear a meth conviction from her record.

Gibson was investigated by the TBI and the case was recently presented to a Putnam County Grand Jury, which failed to indict him for official misconduct.

The D.A. has since has been trying to negotiate with the State Board of Professional Responsibility to get his law license back.

Assistant D.A. Tony Craighead has been serving as acting D.A. in Gibson's absence.

Gibson was re-elected to a new eight year term in 2006. If Governor Bredesen accepts the resignation, he could appoint a replacement to fill out the unexpired term or until an election is held to fill the vacancy.

State law addresses Terms of Office--Filling of Vacancies-- " Except as provided in title 17, chapter 4, the term of each judicial and civil officer shall be computed from September 1st succeeding the election. No appointment or election to fill a vacancy shall be made for a period of time extending beyond the unexpired term. Every officer shall hold office until a successor is elected or appointed and qualified. No special election shall be held to fill a vacancy in the office of judge or district attorney general, but at the time fixed for the biennial election of civil officers; such vacancy shall be filled at the next biennial election occuring more than thirty (30) days after the vacancy occurs."

Mobile Home Destroyed by Fire

April 24, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

A mobile home at the DeKalb/Warren County line was destroyed by fire last night.

County volunteer firefighters responded to the call at 10:04 p.m. Wednesday night at the residence of Dustin Roberts at 525 R. Arnold Road. Roberts rents the property from David Judkins.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says no one was at home at the time of the blaze and no one was injured but the structure was destroyed and three family dogs inside perished. The cause of the fire is undetermined but under investigation.

Members of the Blue Springs, Belk, and Keltonburg Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene along with DeKalb EMS and officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Johnson Arrested After Police Pursuit

April 23, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 45 year old man was arrested after a police pursuit Monday night.

Smithville Police have charged David Ray Johnson of 530 Miller Road with evading arrest, reckless endangerment, possession of a schedule VI and IV drug and he was issued a citation for violation of the light law. His bond totals $11,500 and his court date is May 8th.

K-9 Officer Bradley Tatrow, in his report, states that on Monday night at 9:59 p.m. he stopped a vehicle on East Broad Street at Model City Auto Sales because it had a headlight out. The driver, Johnson, denied Officer Tatrow's request to search the vehicle. Tatrow then deployed Astro, the K-9, and the dog indicated on the trunk of the car. Johnson was asked to get out of the vehicle so it could be searched but he started up the car and sped off, traveling at a high rate of speed. Johnson came to the traffic light at highway's 56 & 70 and then turned left onto highway 56 south. He continued on highway 56 south at a high rate of speed and then turned onto East Bryant Street. Officer Matt Farmer joined Officer Tatrow in the pursuit and Johnson eventually stopped his vehicle at East Bryant and South College Street. Johnson was taken from the vehicle into custody. A search of the vehicle produced a small amount of marijuana, a marijuana roach, and a pill identified as Soma.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, 28 year old Jason William Davis of 939 Grandiose Drive, Cookeville was arrested Tuesday and charged with driving on a revoked license, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance, and violation of the light law. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court on the charges June 5th.

Officer Matt Farmer, in his report, states that at 2:50 a.m. he observed a vehicle going northbound on South College Street with the right side headlight not working. The vehicle, driven by Davis, was stopped. The officer asked Davis for his driver's license but Davis told him that the license had been suspended in Alabama. A further check of the status of the license revealed that it was revoked for failure to appear in an Alabama court.

Davis was placed under arrest for driving on a revoked license and during a search of the vehicle, incident to arrest, Officer Tatrow, who was assisting Officer Farmer, found two white pills and two prescription bottles in a glove box belonging to another person. One bottle had five small white round pills believed to be diphenoxylate and the other contained four blue capsules believed to be dicyclomine.

Join the Fight Against Cancer through Relay for Life

April 22, 2008

More than three million people in the United States have done it. They've joined the fight against cancer by participating in Relay for Life, the signature event of the American Cancer Society.

Last year, more than 4,580 communities nationwide participated in Relay for Life and raised more than $375 million, making the event the largest fund raiser in the U.S.

Relay for Life is an overnight fund-raising event filled with activities, fun and community spirit. All funds raised at Relay for Life support American Cancer Society programs designed to reduce cancer incidence and mortality through research, education, advocacy, and patient services.

The impact of cancer is clear. More than 10 million cancer survivors are living today. This year in the United States, an estimated 1.3 million people will be diagnosed with cancer. Additionally, more than 1,500 people will die of cancer each day.

On May 9th, the community will gather together as one group to help in the battle against cancer. At Greenbrook Park in Smithville, over 32 teams, volunteers, community leaders, and citizens will enjoy the annual Relay for Life event. This year marks the eleventh year to have a Relay for Life event. Plans are to have lots of entertainment and food available starting at 6:00 p.m. Planning for the Relay is a year round event and the organizers hope that you will enjoy what they have in store for you. Relay is the largest community event held in DeKalb County. Please join in for this special night and have lots of fun helping raise money. We are winning this fight; the finish line is closer than ever. Together, we are making a difference.

For more information about participating in Relay for Life, contact Ivadell Randolph or Casey Midgett.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.

This year's Relay for Life Teams are as follows:

The DeKalb County Survivor Team
Liberty State Bank
DeKalb Community Bank
Regions Bank
DeKalb Community Hospital
Family Medical Center
The DeKalb County Sheriffs Department
Smithville First Assembly of God “Youth Against Cancer”
First Baptist Church “Youth Against Cancer”
Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church “Youth Against Cancer”
Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church
First United Methodist Church Smithville
Whorton Springs Baptist Church
The DeKalb County Elected Officials
DeKalb West School
Smithville Elementary School
Northside Elementary School
DeKalb Middle School
DeKalb County High School FCCLA
Shiroki North America Inc
Federal Mogul Friction Products
Tenneco
DeKalb County Attorney Bar Association
DTC/DTC Wireless
El Mariachi Mexican Store Smithville
Curves Smithville
NHC
Wal-Mart # 4414
Smithville Electric System
Movie Gallery “Movie Divas”
K&M Jewelry
The Page Family Team

A special thanks goes to the DeKalb County Sheriffs Department & Sheriff Patrick Ray for their continued support of the event with security.

Silver Event Sponsors 2008 : Smithville Review, The Middle Tennessee Times, & WJLE Radio

If you would like to know more about having a team for Relay for Life please contact Ivadell Randolph at 615 597 5296.

Finley signs baseball scholarship with Martin Methodist

April 22, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Another DeKalb County High School student-athlete has signed scholarship papers, and will continue his athletic career on the collegiate level. Trey Finley, a left-handed pitcher for the Tiger baseball team, signed papers, Tuesday morning, with Martin Methodist College, an NAIA school located in Pulaski, TN.

Red Hawks assistant coach, Michael Wallace, was on hand for Tuesday morning's signing, and is excited about having Trey join the Martin Methodist program. "One, he picked up the ball with his left hand, and left-handed pitching is hard to come by," said Wallace. "He has nice velocity for a high school player. He can throw strikes, he has the ability to work and comes from great parents and is a high-character kid."

Finley chose Martin Methodist over Vol State, and feels he made a good choice. "It's a good school for my education and they have a good baseball program," he said. "I know they beat Cumberland, this year, and Cumberland is usually a good team."

Finley said there are things he wants to work on as he prepares to jump to the next level. "Maybe cut down my pitch count and add a little velocity."

Wallace said the Red Hawks program has had some succees, and is hoping for a nice end to this season. "Since 2000, we've had five players drafted or signed (by Major League Baseball teams)," he noted. "We went to the Regional in 2003. Right now, we're sitting at 27-19-1. If we play well this weekend, we have a chance to finish fourth in our conference. Hopefully, we'll make a good run in our upcoming conference tournament and have a shot to get back to Regionals."

Martin Methodist is a member of the TransSouth Athletic Conference, a division of the NAIA. George Ogilve is the team's head coach.

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